Behind the Image: The Chapel of Transfiguration

A look behind the scenes of my thoughts while creating this photograph, titled The Chapel of Transfiguration, while exploring the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming.

I began this series with an image entitled 6000 Feet, an immediate favorite of mine from the moment I snapped the shutter. It was an image I had visualized within my mind, knowing the exact scene I had wished to capture. An image that floods me with emotion upon every look, 6000 Feet is one picture I will never forget taking. However, there is another image from that same trip – the same day I believe, as well – that I had taken. This one, entitled The Chapel of Transfiguration, also includes the beloved Grand Teton Mountains. But it also includes something that I often do not include: architecture. Specifically, churches.

A little backstory

When I began landscape photography, I wanted desperately to erase humanity. I wanted nothing more than to rid humanity from nature with my photographs. So long as I could control it, there would be no signs of humans existing; if an alien found one of my images online by whatever means, they would not know that humans created anything. Recently, this philosophy has begun to change, especially with the inclusion of humans within my images. While it is rare, I sometimes find myself including Mel in my images for scale (she helps to make my subject look ginormous since she’s so tiny).

Our tour guide had mentioned making a photography stop at a church that included the mountains in the background. Somehow, I knew the exact image that I wanted to create.

One composition, three exposures

The bus pulled up to the church, slowly coming to a stop before sinking down and letting us passengers file out the door. Tripod and camera in-hand, I found my way off the bus and examined the area. In a matter of seconds, I had found my tripod setup, my image framed exactly how I wanted it. I made sure to adjust my exposure so it was just right, level off my camera, plug in my trigger. And then I walked around the scenery, leaving my camera in place.

Are you confused? Yeah, my family sort of seemed to be as well. But I had my 35mm film camera in hand in case I found another composition I wanted to capture. I knew for a fact that the composition I had setup was the only one worthy, at least at that time, so I refused to continuously setup my camera only to tear it down time and time again, increasing the risk of missing this main shot.

Five minutes left before we headed out

Slowly, everyone began to file back onto the bus. I still did not take my shot; I needed to wait until the very last minute before I pressed that shutter. Looking back at it, I am surprised that my anxiety did not try to get the best of me and consume my mind. However, I managed to wait. And wait. People were still walking back to the bus. They were so slow. Of course, other tourists had to walk up to the church, opening the door to let their friends inside before walking inside and shutting the door behind them.

Two minutes

I looked through my viewfinder, double-checked my exposure. Flipped on the LCD, zoomed into 100%, checked my focus. Made sure the camera was level. Adjusted my composition ever so slightly. First shot, underexpose by one stop.

Second shot, “correct” exposure.

Third shot, overexpose by one stop.

Time is up

I snagged by gear rapidly and was the last one on the bus. My confidence was sky-high. I was positive that I got the shot that I yearned for.